The smoke from barbeque and burning leaves — fantastic. The smoke from cigarettes — not so much. Everyone is now well aware of how smoking can significantly harm your overall health. And while the number of people that smoke is declining, there are still too many smoke-related deaths each year. What most people don't think of, though, is how smoking negatively affects your oral health. And it's not just stained teeth or bad breath. It goes well beyond that.
The Effects Of Smoking On Teeth
The number of ways that smoking can affect your oral health is not a small list. It's a solemn one. If you're a smoker, parts of this list are obvious — but most are alarming.
- Stained Teeth, Bad Breath, Loss of Smell & Taste: Smoking can singe your sense of smell and taste, while cigarette tar can stain your teeth, discolor your tongue, and lead to halitosis.
- Weakened Immune System: Smokers' immune systems become compromised, leading to weakened defenses against oral diseases and longer recovery from dental surgical procedures.
- Gum and Periodontal Disease: You are twice as likely to experience gum disease if you smoke, notes the Centers for Disease Control.
- Tooth Decay & Loss: Smoking supports bacteria, plaque, and tartar build-up leading to cavities, decay, and tooth loss.
- Mouth Sores & Ulcers: These common oral health issues are much more prevalent in smokers.
- Gum Recession: Smokers who develop gum disease experience receding gums that exposes the margins of their crowns. This may make oral hygiene more difficult and change the aesthetic appearance of their crowns.
- Oral Cancer: Exposure to harmful chemicals found in cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco causes mutations in the healthy cells of your mouth and throat, increasing your risk for developing oral cancer — probably the most serious and challenging to treat.
Quitting smoking — It takes hard work, commitment, accountability, and willpower. The Centers for Disease Control offers a wealth of knowledge on quitting, including tips, strategies, and maintenance. They also provide a practical 5 step plan to stop:
- Get Ready: Set your date to quit.
- Lean On Your Support System: Utilize your friends, family, and health professionals to help you along.
- Create Distractions: When urges to smoke arise, shift your focus to something else (exercise, hobby, etc.).
- Medicate As Necessary: Speak with your doctor about the benefits of using prescription or over-the-counter medications.
- Prepare For Setbacks: Recognize they happen, own it, work to overcome slip-ups, and keep going.
It's not a matter of how long it takes for smoking to affect your teeth and oral health — but just a matter of when. And while smoking is the #1 preventable cause of death and disease in the US, the journey to quit smoking is a grueling one. Remember that with most oral care concerns, your dental professionals are there to help. With regular visits, your dental team can help create a program to start the quitting process while playing a vital role in the support system you'll need. Sure, regular brushing and flossing can help your smile. The rest of your oral health is in your hands. That starts with taking the cigarette out of your hands and choosing health.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.